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The People and their Traditional Country

Thalanyji country is traditionally located around the Ashburton River and Onslow areas. Many Thalanyji people spent time in Carnarvon Mission as well as on various stations including Minderoo, Towera, Yanrey, Nanutarra, Emu Creek, Lyndon, Winning Pool, Yanrey, Glenflorrie, Uaroo, Mt Stuart and many others. After the 1967 Referendum, many Thalanyji people moved to Onslow for work (some to Carnarvon) and lived in the old Native Reserve, which is now Bindi Bindi community.


Today, the Thalanyji language is spoken fluently by only a few elders. These speakers live in the town of Onslow but were born and raised along the Ashburton River. There are also younger people who are partial or passive Thalanyji speakers living mostly in Onslow, Port Hedland, Tom Price or Carnarvon. The current Thalanyji speakers are mostly descendants of Ngulyiguru (Jack Hayes) and Winnie Hicks. Their closest connections are with Bayungu, Kurrama, Binigura and Burduna people.


Anthills on the coastal plains of Thalanyji traditional country. (Picture by Nadine Hicks)

Language Resources and Recordings

Between 1912 and 1980, many wordlists and recordings were made of the Thalanyji language by Daisy Bates, Norman Tindale, Mrs A Paterson (Yanrey Station), Radcliffe-Brown, Carl von Brandenstein, Geoffrey O’Grady and Peter Austin. In the early 1990s, Peter Austin produced a Thalanyji Dictionary. Wangka Maya has worked extensively with speakers, including Anne Hayes, Shirley Hayes, Valerie Ashburton, Laura Hicks, Judy Hughes and Rosie Campbell, to develop language resources.


In 2006, Wangka Maya published the Thalanyji Interactive Dictionary CD Rom, followed in 2008 by the Thalanyji Dictionary and the Thalanyji Sketch Grammar. Wangka Maya worked with the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Association to produce Ngambunyjarri - Thalanyji Plant Names and Uses, which describes traditional uses of local plants in Thalanyji with English translations. Thalanyji Gujurunyjarri is a book of stories by Thalanyji women.


Language Information

Thalanyji belongs to the Ganyara group of languages, which also includes Burduna, Binigura and Bayungu. These four languages are very close to one another culturally and linguistically and all use the word ganyara to mean “man”. The Ganyara languages also share similarities in some aspects of vocabulary and grammar with the neighbouring Mantharta and Ngayarta languages which include Thiin, Tharrkari, Jiwarli, Warriyangka (Mantharta) and Nhuwala, Jurruru and Martuthunira (Ngayarta). The Ganyara language group is part of the South-West branch of the Pama-Nyungan languages of Australia.

Other spellings that have been used for Thalanyji include: Djalainji, Talaindji, Thalanji, Talanjee, Tallainga, Tallainji.


Beach spinifex grows on the shore in Onslow. (Picture by Nadine Hicks)

Written Example of the Language


Nganimalgin nhubalu nyuwardi?

What are you two working on at the moment?


Ngaliya warrgamurrin ngambunyjarriwardu. Ngaliya jarndibilgin mirlimirlinha ngambunyjarrigu Thalanyjila gujurungga.

We’re working on plants. We’re writing a book about plants in Thalanyji.





Nhuguramalgin gubujarrinhangambuyjarrigu. Nhuguramalgarra gubujarrigu wanggabuga Thalanyjirriyarra.

So the kids can learn about plants. So the kids can learn to speak Thalanyji.


Nganinha ngambu jarndaranyjarri yarrugarrin?

Which plants do the old ladies like?


Mugul Murrarany yarrugarrin ngurdiguragu baju. Nhaanha balama baju thugurda.

Auntie Valerie likes the wild gooseberry. That one is hers.


Ganyaranyjarri nyinabaja nhamu ngarrarila thagalgarra gayulugu, thanwa bajarriyarr nhigirndarriyarratharra.

Burrbabalayji is a significant site, located near the Sunset Beach. Was also an old camping ground for the Thalanyji and Nhuwala people in the early days. They got fresh water from the soak and hunted around that area for animals and shellfish.